Microsoft releases tools to let devs start building for its upcoming dual-screen devices

Greg Kumparak

As we learned back in October, Microsoft has been cracking away at not one, but two dual-screen devices: Surface Duo and Surface Neo. Surface Duo will run Android, while Surface Neo will run on a special fork of Windows 10 dubbed "Windows 10 X."

This morning the company is pulling back the curtain a bit, debuting its first batch of dual-screen developer tools and shedding some light on how apps can utilize that second screen.

While a developer kit for the Android-powered Duo has been made available, the company says dev tools for the Windows-powered Neo will arrive in "the coming weeks," with a target date of February 11th.

By default, says Microsoft, apps on these dual-screen devices will only occupy one screen. Users can elect to "span" the app to make it stretch across both — but, at least for now, it's not something an app can force to happen.

While simply stretching an app to fill both screens is one approach, Microsoft offered up a few alternative "pattern ideas" to better utilize the form factor:

Meanwhile, Microsoft is also starting to build out web standards for dual-screen devices — APIs for developers to easily detect dual-screen devices, for example, allowing them to adapt their web apps accordingly. The company says preview builds of Microsoft Edge with early dual-screen APIs should start shipping "soon."

While no specific launch date has been given for either device, Microsoft has given both a launch window of sometime around the holidays of 2020. Getting these dev tools out sooner than later, then, makes sense — while it might look neat, two screens aren't inherently better than one. For the concept to ever take off, Microsoft needs developers to find novel ways to use that second screen; the ways in which having a pair of screens really makes things better, rather than just... different.